When a team captures its first Ivy League title since 1995 with a perfect 5-0 record, there is reason for optimism heading into a new season. When that same team captures its first Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) crown in program history, it is deemed as something to strive for again in the upcoming year. When the same team blows through the regular season with a 17-1 mark, dropping its lone decision, 18-9, to the eventual national runner-up, and finishes fourth at NCAAs itself, it is time to bask in the glow of success.
Now take that team and return all but two student-athletes, including six All-Ivy honorees and three All-Americans, and you have the 2004-05 Penn women's fencing team.
"We were very lucky to not get hit hard by graduation, as we lost only one, Elizabeth Kreidman, from our epee team," Head Coach David Micahnik said.
The Quakers' epee team may not have lost a large number of competitors due to graduation but they will be without the services of a would-be-returnee at epee in the form of Livia Rurarz-Huygens. Rurarz-Huygens will be studying abroad in France during the 2004-05 academic year, but leaves behind three very competent teammates.
First-team All-Ivy selection and All-American honoree Holly Buechel, a native of South Orange, N.J., leads the trio into the new season after leading her epee weapon mates in victories with 32 versus just six losses. She also compiled a 13-2 record in the Ivy League. Her 2003-04 season was highlighted by a silver medal at the IFAs, a seventh-place finish at Regionals, a ninth-place finish at NCAAs and being named Most Improved by her teammates.
Jackie Schramm enters her second season with the Red and Blue and after a 15-4 mark in 2003-04 will be looked upon to fill the void left by Rurarz-Huygens.
The reinforcements for the epee squad come in the form of newcomers Angelika Kyrimi and Grace Wilson and transfer Maggie Foster. Kyrimi is a member of the Junior National Team in Greece.
"I think women's epee will be very similar strength wise to last season, meaning that the performances are there, it just remains to be seen who steps up," commented Micahnik. "Between Schramm and Kyrimi, we should be able to replace the two we have lost [Kreidman and Rurarz-Huygens]."
The most success came out of the women's sabre squad as the quartet rolled to an impressive 178-30 (.856 winning percentage). All three starters are now sophomores, two of whom advanced to the NCAAs and earned All-America honors.
The triad was led by Annika Eiremo who was victorious in 52 of 54 bouts to lead the Quakers in wins. She captured a gold medal at the IFAs and finished fifth at her first NCAA Championships. Eiremo did not drop a bout during her run through the IFAs and the NCAA Regionals and at one point during the season, strung together 43-consecutive victories.
Not to be outdone by their classmate, Katelyn Sherry and Cassandra Frey each earned second-team All-Ivy honors en route to records of 45-6 and 41-13, respectively. Sherry was named an All-American after her seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships last spring.
The three second-year Penn fencers' experience will be a key as the sabre team welcomes newcomer Lauren Phillips, a nationally ranked fencer out of Livingston, N.J.
"Our two All-Americans [Eiremo and Sherry] are coming in with a year of collegiate experience under their belt and a summer's worth of intense training and should be at least as good as they were a year ago," said Micahnik. "Our women's sabre team will be as strong as last year, easily."
Junior captain Christina Kaneshige leads the women's foil team in 2004-05. Kaneshige, a two-time All-Ivy honoree (first-team in 2002-03 and second-team last season) finished her sophomore campaign with a 40-9 record.
Foil is the team on the women's side with the most depth, returning four. It was a key ingredient that made up the recipe for Penn's 2004 IFA title. Kaneshige posted nine victories, earning a third-place finish.
The women's foil team adds a very strong and hard-working student-athlete this fall. Zoya Abdikulova, a nationally-ranked fencer out of Glenview, Ill., will give even more backbone to an already strong team.
Rounding out the team is Eve Overton. The sheer numbers present on the women's foil squad would give the thought that more of the same can be expected from these women but Coach Micahnik feels there is even more in store.
"Our women's foil team is, if anything, going to an even stronger unit, especially with the addition of Abdikulova. She will add to the work ethic as well as to the success of the squad."
With the Penn women's fencing team being so young in 2003-04, it is possible that the Red and Blue took many of their Ivy opponents by surprise on their way to five wins against no losses.
"The women really have their work cut out for them because last year they were able to sneak up on a lot of opponents. No one realized how strong they were going to be," Micahnik commented. "This year nobody will be surprised.
“Last year, by the time we got to mid-season I was no longer surprised at their strength. They showed that it was not a fluke and that they were really that good. This year opponents will not be surprised by us. We are defending [Ivy] champs and people will be aiming their sights at us."
The goal of the women's fencing team is simple improve on what has already been accomplished.
-Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications.